Human rights activist Mary de Haas awarded honorary doctorate by Rhodes University

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Mary de Haas has been awarded an honorary doctorate.
Mary de Haas has been awarded an honorary doctorate.
File/News24
  • Activist Mary de Haas was awarded an honorary doctorate by Rhodes University.
  • De Haas, a retired academic, is a well-known violence researcher.
  • The degree was presented at a virtual ceremony on Wednesday.

Prominent activist and academic Mary de Haas has been awarded an honorary doctorate by Rhodes University for her formidable work in striving for social justice and human dignity.

De Haas, who is a well-known researcher on violence, mainly in KwaZulu-Natal, was on Wednesday presented with the degree during a virtual ceremony. 

She told News24 that she never intended to become a researcher on violence.

"My research interests were in anthropology, but when I was going into townships in the 1980s, people began telling me about serious incidents of violence - and I thought I should do something.

READ | Rhodes University to honour Maths and Science teacher William Smith

"I used to harangue the media to report on these issues because nobody knew what was going on, and nobody would believe me when I would tell them - so studying violence was more a by-product of researching other things."

De Haas is a qualified social worker and holds a Master of Social Science in Anthropology from the University of KwaZulu-Natal.

Research

Her research interests range from African marriage, divorce and family therapy, to traditional leaders, ethnic identity and policing. 

She lectured at the university until her retirement in 2002, but remains an honorary research fellow at its School of Law. 

She is also a founding member of the Medical Rights Advocacy Network, an activist organisation concerned with medical professionals and health matters. 

De Haas' message to this year's graduates was about the importance of civic duty. 

"People ask me why I do what I do, and I tell them it's because I'm in a position to help out. It is sad how people in the country are still disempowered 27 years into democracy. 

"If you're lucky enough to have a proper education, then you have to give back and help others."

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